Timothy Fenstermacher, an inmate at Tehachapi State Prison, surprised Biblical Archaeology Review (BAR) editors in 2010 with an insightful response regarding the distribution of the so-called “Sinai hieroglyph” referenced in Orly Goldwasser’s article “How the Alphabet Was Born from Hieroglyphs.”* Sent to prison following a felony assault in 1996, Fenstermacher has devoted his sentence to the acquisition of scholarly materials and a concentrated study of Egyptology. He informed BAR that he has “spent the abundance of the time I’ve been given to explore one of my loves: Egypt.”
After getting access to dictionaries of ancient Egyptian, Fenstermacher “made hundreds (literally) of flash cards out of my 8-oz milk carton in the morning.” Slowly increasing his knowledge through extensive reading and contact with scholars, Fenstermacher has developed a firm command of the subject, and recently sent friends and family his elegant new translation of the 14th-century B.C.E. “Hymn to Amen and Aten.”
He is due to be released in 2013, and his plans range from driving a truck to writing a book, “perhaps about the biological diversity of the Nile, or paintings from tombs.” In any case, Fenstermacher knows that he would love the opportunity to receive a formal education in Egyptology.
* See Queries & Comments, “How Rare Is the Sinai Hieroglyph?” Biblical Archaeology Review, July/August 2010; and Orly Goldwasser, “How the Alphabet Was Born from Hieroglyphs,” Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April 2010.
For additional letters from Fenstermacher, see Queries and Comments, “Temple Mount Revolt Coins,” Biblical Archaeology Review, July/August 2011.
Queries & Comments, “Food for Vultures,” Biblical Archaeology Review, March/April 2012.